Trilok Gurtu: Shobharock

The amazing percussionist Trilok Gurtu first came to prominence with the world music group Oregon. He would later achieve greater fame with the John McLaughlin Trio, where his wild East-meets-West percussion forays became highlights of every show. In performance, Gurtu surrounds himself with Indian percussion instruments of every sort and a small traditional drum kit. He plays sitting and or kneeling. His percussion pallet is as big as anyone's. He may strike a small cymbal, then drop it in and pull it out of a bucket of water. He may squeeze squeaky toys, blow a whistle, shake a handful of small bells or strike an impressive Western backbeat or snare roll. And he does it all with an infectious smile that in itself is part of a wondrous rhythm.

Gurtu has released many worthwhile recordings on his own over the years. He is clearly one of the fathers of the burgeoning Indian world and jazz music movement. (In case you haven't heard, India is where the jazz shit is really happening these days!) "Shobharock" is a piece of work, named in honor of Gurtu's mother, Shobha Gurtu. An accomplished Indian vocalist who passed away in 2004, Shobha raises her voice to great effect on this fusion number. The theme is ushered in by a low drone. The great Indian classical violinist L. Shankar, or just "Shankar" as he appears in the credits, divulges the tune's mesmerizing theme over Gurtu's Western-style drumming. Gurtu will change his percussion character several times during this excursion. Swedish bassist Jonas Hellborg maintains the bottom with a relentless precision groove. The group sound is overwhelming in its scope. Jazz trumpeter Don Cherry has a solo. Oregon's fine guitarist Ralphe Towner takes his turn. Truth be told, there is really too much going on here. But "Shobharock" is an ethnically and stylistically mixed musical mosh that is well worth the sensory overload.

March 26, 2008 · 0 comments

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Surinder Sandhu: Amirah

In India there are only three Masters left teaching the sarangi, an ancient bowed stringed instrument from the Northern Indian tradition. The paucity of its practitioners is relative to its extreme difficulty to play. Surinder Sandhu, an Indian raised in the UK, has had to travel to India many times to learn it. Though no one truly masters anything, Sandhu has an ironfisted grasp of the sarangi's tradition and the open mind needed for its future.

This CD is revelatory, a stunning collage of Indian-influenced jazz and symphonic power. The composing, arranging and orchestration of "Amirah" were all done by Sandhu. The members of the Saurang Orchestra, culled from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, are given plenty to do. Guitarist Steve Vai also makes an appearance on "Amirah." The rock star Steve Vai? Yes! He plays some beautiful Far Eastern guitar. Also performing to great effect are sax players George Brooks and Andy Sheppard, while Shabhaz Hussain displays a confident mastery of the tabla. Of special interest is the talented drummer Mark Anderson. But the star of this fusion of Indian classical music, jazz and symphonic power is Sandhu. His sarangi produces a low-register haunting whine that enters from the core of this Carnatic creation to permeate all that you hear.

March 26, 2008 · 0 comments

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